So I finished a bootcamp

My Journey as a Web Developer


Irina Stelea
Software Developer
bei SYZYGY Techsolutions

7 Minuten


In April 2022, I quit my job in digital communications and enrolled in a coding bootcamp. Fast forward to today: I’ve been a junior developer at SYZYGY Techsolutions for over a year, and I love my work. Here are some things I learned on this journey 

A bootcamp is just a start

In recent years, the number of coding bootcamps in Germany has been on the rise. While each bootcamp has its own teaching approach, their marketing message sings the same tune: IT jobs are in high demand, and you can get from zero knowledge to job-market-ready within an average of 12 weeks. 

It all sounds very compelling, but the reality is different. The downturn in the US tech job market since late 2022 has had ripple effects globally, including in Germany. Recent bootcamp graduates I talked to have had to face both a decline in the number of entry-level positions and lower starting salaries.  More importantly, finishing a coding bootcamp doesn’t automatically make someone into a programmer. Most bootcamps are rather guided introductions to the vast software engineering field. Once you graduate, you are merely someone equipped with basic, surface-level knowledge of coding and trending technologies.  

Many of the bootcamps I researched focus on teaching tools (the latest frameworks, for example). Some—like the one I graduated from—also teach programming fundamentals, such as data structures and object-oriented programming. Although these topics are covered superficially due to the limited time, they offer an important glimpse into the broader programming career, and especially into the coding mindset. This can help you take a more informed decision for your professional future. 

As a bootcamp graduate, it’s tempting to believe that sending out your CV is all it takes to secure your first IT job. If your main concern after the bootcamp is “When can I expect my first pay check?”, you are in for the wrong reasons. Programming is a complex field, where the typical entry path involves a computer science degree or years of equivalent experience. Mastery requires time, dedication, and a willingness to push through many frustrating moments.  

So, the real question to ask yourself after the bootcamp is: Do you see yourself being a programmer? If the answer is yes, be ready to accept that your journey is just starting. 

Navigating the post-bootcamp job search

Reality check: With the skillset acquired in a bootcamp, you’re not exactly a hot commodity in the job market. Your main competitors include fellow bootcamp graduates—whose knowledge and portfolios may closely resemble yours—and computer science graduates, who arguably have more solid knowledge and understanding.  

How can you stand out in a recruiter’s sea of applications? The key is to continue improving your skills.  

  • Code daily. Spend the bulk of your time coding or reading (about) code. Do coding challenges, revise and polish the practical projects from the bootcamp, and work on new projects. A portfolio with several cleanly-written projects will make your application more attractive to employers.
  • Understand the coding mindset. Go beyond the surface and aim to gain a high-level understanding of programming. After completing a few projects, step back and analyze your approach. Understand the problems your code aims to solve. Can you explain why you made certain decisions? Can you guide someone through your problem-solving process?
    This will pay off long-term, because with enough experience this mindset will define your future work as a programmer. Employers don’t hire based solely on tool proficiency. They want to see how you apply those tools to solve real-world problems.
  • Keep learning new things. With increasing fluency in a programming language, comes a lot of excitement and self-confidence, but don’t rest on your laurels yet. Always tackle fresh challenges. Whether it is reading technical books or blogs, watching videos, talking to more experienced programmers, coding something you are curious about—find something that works for you. Given the rise of AI tools in today’s tech landscape, continuous improvement is even more critical.


Using the approach above, in the first two months after the bootcamp I managed to expand and polish my graduation project, review the flurry of content from the bootcamp, and get my application materials in good shape. By month three I started applying for jobs—not because I felt fully prepared, but to be able to better understand employer expectations. 

Two areas caught me off guard: 

  • Collaboration. My bootcamp had focused only on individual work, but a programming job involves teamwork. A colleague came up with the idea to team up and co-author some portfolio projects. This was a good introduction to programming in a team, and it also kept us motivated to keep going despite job rejections.
  • Complex codebases. Even junior roles often require understanding more intricate code. One way to prepare for this is to read code in publicly available repos. The goal is not to understand every line. It’s rather to persevere in front of the unknown, be able to identify your knowledge gaps and develop a strategy to bridge them.

In retrospect, these steps turned out to be key in getting the attention of potential employers. Five to six months after graduating, I had managed to make it into the final interview rounds with several companies, including SYZYGY Techsolutions, where I was offered a position as Junior Developer starting April 2023.

The new reality on the job

Your first job as a developer marks a significant shift. You’ll move from learning in a controlled environment with few to no expectations, to applying your fresh skills in a professional setting with real expectations. You will work on projects with deadlines, collaborate with colleagues, contribute to a company effort, perhaps be expected to deliver on complex challenges, or interact with clients.  

 At first, this shift can feel daunting. If you’re coming from a different career level—as I was—adjusting to a junior role can also be humbling. It’s important to remember that you are in a growth phase.  

It will still take work and effort to improve your skills and overcome setbacks, but in a professional environment this scales up quickly. Treat every challenge as a learning opportunity.  

This has worked well for me: 

  • Jump at any opportunity to learn. My role at SYZYGY Techsolutions regularly involves tasks with a lot of learning potential: exploring new areas of the codebase, doing code reviews, implementing system tasks, working with colleagues with various backgrounds and knowledge. Seizing such opportunities has helped me broaden my understanding of our systems, coding and architectural patterns, and best practices, as well as observe problem-solving strategies. It was a great boost to my technical skills, but also to my ability to collaborate in a dev team.
  • Continue to focus on mastering the coding mindset. Besides improving my technical and collaboration skills, the coding mindset has continued to be an essential goal of my work. For example, I’m always curious about how my team solves certain technical problems, and why they solved them the way they did. I’ve also learned with time to approach my own problem-solving in a more structured way.
    “Why is this effort important if I already have a job?”, you might ask. Because this is where your long-term growth and value as a developer truly lies.  As you grow in your career, it’s this mindset, rather than any specific technical skill, that will make you a valuable contributor to any dev team.
  • Ask questions. No one expects you to know everything as a junior developer—asking questions shows that you are proactive and willing to learn, and it is not a sign of weakness. The more senior developers on our team take each question seriously and encourage us to always ask questions both about the execution details and our processes. In many situations, simply asking questions has given me a new understanding of the problem or helped me avoid a flawed approach to the solution.
  • Learn how to unblock yourself. Every programmer gets stuck sometimes – it is part of the job. Acknowledging that you are stuck and developing a strategy to unblock yourself is an important skill for juniors. It can improve your problem-solving and your productivity. Whenever I realize I’m not making progress on an issue, I give myself a timeframe to keep trying. If this fails, I take a step back and aim to reformulate the problem. Depending on its nature, I have various strategies to get unstuck: online research, seeking guidance from someone more senior, calling up a colleague for a second opinion.
  • Track your progress. Put time aside each week to document your achievements, learnings, and the challenges you overcame that week. This task may seem tedious at first, but long-term this document will prove very valuable. It will help you identify the areas where you need improvement, it will serve as a record of your growth over time—which can be motivating and rewarding—and encourage you to tackle more complex tasks.

My takeaway

In my first year at SYZYGY Techsolutions, the approach above allowed me to lay a solid technical foundation and go in-depth into the language and framework I use every day. My focus was on writing clean code and reliable tests, and on incorporating my team’s best practices into my work. Lately I’ve been aiming to move beyond this “lines of code” approach and gain an understanding of design and architectural concepts. I’m working my way through books and other resources on design patterns and refactoring—but more on that in a future blog post.  

Switching careers and starting my first job as a developer was not easy and required a lot of work, but it was all worth it. Each workday brings interesting challenges to solve alongside a friendly and supportive team. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next.   

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Head of Technology
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